Friday, 23 November 2012

Researching Chancel Repair Liability on Tithe documents

Chancel repair Liability research for PCC's

This post is aimed at PCC's who are stressed and this I hope is at least a starter in the right direction and I do have more advice on my webpage in the top right hand corner on pdf files.

Starting from home

Before you do anything it is worth researching the history of your church  since this will give you a heads up of what you may find or may not find. Looking your church up on a variety of on-line resources which I have put links to here. Starting with  your church on the 1836 clerical directory and the British history on-line are excellent places to start your research since they may say if there was an impropriator or lay rector.
Looking at  House of commons order paper 44 may well suggest if there was an enclosure award . Your parishes entry in the elusive 1887 Land Commission report can give a hint of the issues of what  a particular parish may have to deal with but also will show you if your parish was considered for Tithe purposes a parish church or a chapel and if it is a latter there will be no Chancel Repair Liability for your church although there may be liability for a church some distance away.

The purpose of the Tithe map and apportionment

The whole purpose of the 1836 Tithe Act was to change the payment of tithe to tithe rent charge ie from a payment of goods to a payment of money. All other considerations were secondary including issues of liability to repair the chancel. A plot which does not pay tithe rent charge may either have no liability or complete liability  for the chancel but this was not the focus of those drawing up the maps and the apportionments hence the mixed approached to mapping of those plots. They changed both Rectory (greater) tithes which have the liability and vicarial (lesser) tithes which don't to a money payment. Like Rectory tithes vicarial tithes were often owned by a lay person but not always so.

The vital documents

The next stage is to locate your church's vital documents which are the Tithe apportionments (or award) and Tithe maps for each township that made up the medieval parish. A parish may have up to dozen or so maps and apportionments but most parishes will have one or two.There were at least three copies produced  for each township, one copy will be at the national archives and others should be in local archives.
The other document is the record of Ascertainments which for many parishes is downloadable from the national archives but it may be obtainable from your diocese.

Tithe Apportionment and Map.

Everyone of these documents is different and they come in all different sizes and shapes and I would highly recommend that for ease of reading and understanding of the document that taking high quality photographs and taking them home to read on the computer is the best option. Even apportionments and maps from different townships in the same parish may well be different.

 The record of Ascertainments

 A question that will need to be asked  is 'Can the plots on the record of Ascertainments be identified on the Tithe map?' If so those plots have a apportioned liability for the chancel (normally very small). Sometimes plots are altered and subdivided and altered apportionments may well be needed to be obtained from the national archives. A good place to understand this document and relationship to your tithe map can be found on the national archive website here.

Plots not on the Record of Ascertainments 

These fall into several categories those in which the tithe rent charge has been redeemed (probably no liability) or tithe free as a result of enclosure awards and hence no liability and those in which the liability  is not apportioned and those which the tithes were in the hands of appropriators or an a particular organisation.

Enclosure award

Sometimes in the introduction of  the tithe Apportionment  it will state if there is an enclosure award that has affected tithe in which case this must be investigated

Redeemed plots

Between 1836 and 1936 there were various acts of parliament that allowed the land owner to pay the tithe rent charge owner off and also end  the liability (correction may or may not have ended the liability no one knows for sure). This may have happened to all the rent charge plots in a given township hence giving the result of no rent tithe charge liability and no record of Ascertainments. Yet liability can still exist in all the other forms as noted here.

Tithe Free plots

Sometimes as a result of an earlier enclosure some of the plots are tithe free and hence also liability free.

Merged plots

Some plots will been noted as having been 'merged with the Tithe' or 'merged and extinguished' and this only happened if the tithe owner and the land owner were the same person. This moved the liability for the chancel from the receiver of the tithe to the land owner but being the same person may no difference at the time and it ended the silliness of people paying themselves. Sometimes the greater tithes were merged but the lesser tithes were not and this happened when the Vicar was collecting the lesser tithes these plots still carry the liability since the greater tithes were merged.These merged plots bear the liability for the upkeep for the chancel in a non-apportioned form ie it is  personal and several as outlined in section 1 of the 1839 Tithe Act.
There may be many of these plots on a Tithe map and where much of the land is merged, it may not be annotated  or instead of plot numbers land owners names are used. When entire townships consist of merged land then there may be no map at all..

It is easy to get confused with 'merged tithe rent charge' land which is included in the record of ascertainments and merged Tithe and land which is not.

Chancel Checking Companies

It does seem that merged and extinguished land is at times not detected by Chancel checking organisation hence there are places with entire townships consisting of merged land with a negative result arriving


Some plots may well be glebe and if it is rectory glebe held by a lay person then there will be liability for the upkeep of the chancel but even in this this case there is some disagreement depending on the history of the glebe. Vicarial glebe or Rectory glebe held by an incumbent does not carry any liability and so living on glebe farm once owned by a vicar will never have the liability. Contrary to some blogs no one has to be extra worried if they live on glebe land since it depends on the history of the land.

Clerical Rectors

If the liability from each tithe rent charge only went to a the incumbent  on a given plot there is no liability or if  'merging' of the greater tithe was done by the incumbent there is no liability. It is possible that a township will both have a clerical rector who collected the tithes and a lay rector who also collected tithes on different plots.


If the Tithe or Tithe rent charge went to an appropriator like a Bishop or a Dean or pebend in which case it is worth contacting the church commissioners since the liability may have fallen into their hands and this may be supported by the record of ascertainments. Not all the assets of all appropriators fell into the hands of the church commissioners and so this is very much a case by case basis. It seems that the Church commissioners are actively seeking to register the liability against themselves where they sold land free of Chancel repair liability.


This is but a pen portrait of a very complicated area and to carry out good research James Derriman's 'Chancel Repair Liability: How to Research it ' is the book to have.


various minor corrections 14 may

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